Strike Of The Beast...Eric & Chuck Speaks Out.
Bay Area Thrasher’s ‘Testament’ have returned with their latest offering with is a collection of early material and un-released material which is receiving rave reviews from the press. ‘First Strike.. Still Deadly’ is an awesome release for fans old and new as this is pretty intense stuff.
Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy speaks to Jason Brown to find out more about this new album and what the future holds for one of the Bay Area’s premier acts. Hear is what they had to say.”
OK Eric, from out of all the previous albums that you have released through ‘Atlantic’, which is your favourite and least favourite albums and why?”
(E) “Well that is a difficult question to answer, I would have to say that my favourite album would have to be ‘Practice What You Preach’, because it had all the right elements. Saying that, I think musically that the ‘Legacy’ and ‘The New Order’, but getting back to the ‘Practice What You Preach’ album, that was a very good time for the band and it had made the bands mark. We were able to tour the world by ourselves.
I don’t know if I had a least favourite album, only in the production for ‘Souls In Black’ & ‘Practice What You Preach’, because I think that the mixing skills were weird and we did a few things that we shouldn’t of done with the overall drum sound. I just wish what I know now!! This is why we are doing this re-recording right now, because we feel that the songs from the first 2 demos and the ‘Legacy’ were awesome material, but the production lacked back then, and with today’s technology we feel that we can bring out more in these great songs!!”
(C) “I would have to say that my favourite is ‘Low’ because we had a lot of fun recording this record, and I also like the early albums even though the production’s weren’t great. My least favourite album is ‘The Ritual’, just because the band had different directions and everybody in the band had different musical tastes.”
We’ve seen the band going through various line-up changes, are you still friends with all the old members? Also what are they all up to these days?
(E) “Of course we are still friends. Well Alex Skolnick is playing Jazz in New York, and he has just had is master’s degree in music. He has done a lot since he left the band. As for Louie Clemente has now become a antique dealer and Greg Christian has become a computer programmer. That’s the original bit (Laughing)”.
For what reason did you leave ‘Atlantic’ records, was it because there were dropping nearly all of their metal bands?
(E) “I think at that point there was a hole new age of music coming out and when this type of thing happens the labels just want to jump on the bandwagon. If you look at the music today, every band has the same sound such has ‘Green Day’, ‘Korn’ and others which are all good, but there is no variety!!
Getting back to the question, the label were really pushing us to change and we delivered the album ‘Low’, which came out a a difficult time were we were dabbling with ‘Death Metal’ which I think is one of our best albums. We then decided to make our own label ‘Burnt Offerings’”
OK , after leaving ‘Atlantic were signed to ‘Music For Nation’ as a licensing deal, how did that come about?
(C) “Basically it was a label deal which we used then for distribution and we actually liked the company a great deal, but I guess politically they got some new people in their camp to handle arrangements, and when labels do that they tend to tighten their belts and this left ‘Testament’ with really no deal. So we decided to look else where.”
Did the ‘Demonic’ album sell well for the band?”
(E) “Yeah it did good!! It was basically a album stating ‘Fuck You’ to everybody, because we were just angry and that was our Death Metal record.”
Eric, how did you hook up with Gene Holgan (ex Death & Dark Angel) for this record?
“Well we actually had Chris Contus (ex Machine Head) helping us out but things didn’t work out. I can’t remember where we were, but we just called him and he was available and at that time we were going to start a new band called ‘Dog Faced Dogs’ and he seemed very interested in that. We actually had 3 -4 song wrote and ‘Testament’ were kind of broken up for about 2 wks. So we decided to call it a day with all the drama we had been through and line-upchanges. We wanted to start a fresh band and it seemed to sound just like ‘Testament’, so we decide to carry on with the name ‘Testament’ & give it another shot!!”
So what were these songs called?
(C) “They were called ‘New Eyes Of Old’, ‘Demonic’, ‘Braintimes’, and another song from the ‘Demonic’ album that I can’t remember.”
After the release of ‘Demonic’ the band released ‘The Gathering’, which also saw the band on another label ‘USM’ and did that album sell well for the band?
(E) “That album came out at a good time for us, we did the last album and Gene left the band to join ‘Strapping Young Lad’, and I don’t think he wanted to be the next ‘Testament’ drummer. We had John D. who is now with ‘White Zombie’ and we were ready to tour and with Glen (ex Forbidden) and Derrick, and we were not getting along with Glen anymore, but he is still our friend when we are at home. We just didn’t really hit it off on tour.
So in the end we ended up with Chuck and myself (Laughing), so we thought what we were going to do some South American dates and Dave Lombardo (ex Slayer) was asked if he wanted to help the band out, but at that time he said he was not available. Later on he called me up and said that we should jam sometime, which we did in the end. So that is how the whole idea started out.
So I jumped at the chance to play with Dave, and at the same time Derrick wanted to be in the band, but he could not be in the band and so he told us to check out Steve DiGiorgio (ex Sadus/ Death) and so I contacted him and he was down for it. I also contacted James Murphy once again and so we had the perfect line-up!!”
This must of been one of the band’s biggest selling album, right?
(E) “Yes you are right!! I think it sold about 3- 4000 copies.”
So why did you leave the label your were signed to at that time, ‘USG’, what went wrong?
(C) “Well they actually went under and so that left us without a label in Europe, and so our label in Europe became ‘Spitfire’ and in the States. So we gave them the record and things are going really well at the moment.”
Didn’t you think it was strange to sign to such as label as ‘USG’, who seemed to have a lot of melodic rock artist’s?
(E) “Yeah it was kind of strange at first, but there were a couple of people who worked for the label who were ‘Testament’ fans, so it seemed like a good choice at that time. They gave us enough money to do that record ‘The Gathering’ and they promoted us well enough as well, which made us enter the Germany Metal charts once again.”
So what is actually happening with your own label ‘Burnt Offerings’, are you still doing it? Also are you going torelease any other artist’s on your label?”
(C) “Yes we are, basically what we are doing is having the right’s to our own music and then licensing it to various labels from around the world. Everything as to be approved by us first so that we do not get fucked around!!As for releasing other artist’s, well we are hoping to release a ‘Bay Area’ compilation, but it fell through because we are so busy at the moment, and besides I have to go into hospital with my cancer that I have.”
Getting back to ‘The Gathering’, which were your favourite trax on that album?
(E) “I would have to say that my favourite trax were ‘D.N.R.’, ‘Legions Of The Dead’, ‘Fall Of Sipledome’, I like the Thrash ones!!”
This album also saw the return of James Murphy once again, so what went wrong once again with you and him?
(E) “We fired him (Laughing)!! Well during the ‘Low’ session’s he was a reallygifted guitar player but he was also a pain in the ass to deal with on the road, and I still love him dearly but things just were not working out at that time. His guitar playing is incredible, he is amazing without no doubt. I think that he has a lot going on and he is spreading himself thin at present.
So when we started to record ‘The Gathering’ he started to drive us all nut’s once again and he never turned up at rehearsal’s and when he did he only had one guitar & and no amp, and so we told him to let us know next time so that we could help him out. After the first U.S. tour we needed to change things, so we fired James.”
Was the tour for this album a success despite what happened with James Murphy?
(C) “Yes it was, as ‘The Gathering’ lasted for many months here in the States and over in Europe. We had Steve Jacob’s (ex Forbidden) and Steve Smyth (ex Vicious Rumors) joining us for that tour.”
So where did you find Jon Allen as the latest drummer in the band?
(E) “Well I asked Chuck if he knew any god drummer’s for my side project ‘Dragonlord’ and he suggested Jon Allen from (ex Sadus) and things have been working out great for us. He became the new member of ‘Testament’ as well as ‘Dragonlord’.”
As I know Steve Smyth could you tell me how you hooked up with him and why did he leave ‘Vicious Rumors’?
(E) “Well Steve play’s (Dragonlord) in my side project and he just replaced James Murphy but he has not done any recordings with us yet, but things are turning out great so far. As for him been friends with the guys in ‘Vicious Rumors’, well I don’t know, you will have to ask them.”
OK guys, you are about to release your latest release ‘First Strike’, please tell me more about this record, are the songs new or old material?
(E) “Our first idea was to remix the masters of ‘The Legacy’ and ‘The New Order’, to give them a better production, but politically we were not able to do that, so we started to get idea’s from our fans to re-record it. So Alex was available to do this new record and John Tempesta (White Zombie) was really into the idea, and we kind of went with that. We also had Steve Souza (ex Exodus) to sing on a couple of trax.
We picked 11 songs from the first 2 records albums and they sound great!! I think the whole thing with Chuck’s health has made this a cool thing to release to be able to listen to the old stuff and to play with all our hearts, as we played with all the same emotions and is sound’s really heavy!!”
So what was the reason to call this album ‘First Strike’?
(C) “Well when the band was called ‘Legacy’ we were going to release our debut as ‘First Strike Still Deadly’, but we had to change our name and we called the album ‘Legacy’. The song ‘First Strike’ is on that record and we just thought it was a cool name for this album and it also fitted the music that we were doing back then. We had a couple of other titles for this album such as ‘The Old Testament’, but the title that we chose suited the band more.”
Who did the art work and how does it reflect in the music?”
(E) “Well the art work is still been done as we speak and I believe that it has the old logo that we use to have, but like I said I have not seen it yet, sorry. I do know for sure that the art work will reflect in our music.”
The album is been recorded here in the UK with producer Andy Sneap in Ripley, how did you hook up with Andy and what attracted you to him?
(C) “Well we actually recorded the album in the States in our own studio with Doug Hall who is ‘Iron Maiden’s’ soundman and he recorded everything and we came to Nottingham and Andy Sneap mixed the album. So far it has taken just under a month to record the album and the album will be finished within the hour.”
How do you compare this new album to that of the older material?
(C) “Basically it is all our old material which has been re- done with better technology and sounds.”
OK, do you intend on releasing a promo video for this album and if so for which track?”
(E) “Well I don’t think so because of Chuck having problems, he still needs a lot of hospital care, we will have to wait and see about a video.”
Eric, it must of been tuff going for the band and Chuck with him trying to deal with his cancer.
(E) “Yeah it has been tuff for all of us, but Chuck is a strong man and he could not do 2 songs a day, he had to do half a song a day but he has done an excellent job under the circumstances. We hope by next year that Chuck will be fine and fit to record and tour.”
OK Eric, let’s briefly talk about your Black Metal side project ‘Dragonlord’, what made you want to do a Black Metal side project?
(E) “Well this project has been an idea in my head for such a long time and I wanted to do something which is more atmospheric and a little bit more gothic. So I found some darker influences and it was time for me to get them out!!”
So who are your influences to play Black Metal?
“Well when we first started out as ‘Legacy’ we were influenced by ‘Bathory’, ‘Venom’, ‘Mercyful Fate’. Of recent I am influenced by a lot of the Swedish bands such as ‘Soilwork’, ‘Murduk’, ‘Emperor’ and other cool bands.”
How long did it take to record the ‘Dragonlord’ album? Also why did you decide to call the album ‘Rapture’?
(E) “It took about 3- 4 wks to record. I decided to call the album ‘Rapture’ because it was the first song that we wrote and I think it summons the band because this song just hits you over the head and it just seemed to fit the album title.”
With you influenced by Black Metal, did you ever think of releasing this album through ‘Osmose’ records?
“My first idea was to release it through ‘Nuclear Blast’, but ‘Spitfire’ seemed to be very dedicated to the project so it seemed pointless to approach ‘Osmose’.”
What trax did you enjoy recording the most?
(E) “I like the songs ‘Born To Darkness’, ‘Holy Void’.”
What does Chuck and your friends think of this album?
(E) “Well my friends love it and are kind of shocked at the same time. Chuck likes it as well.”
Did you ever think of going on tour with ‘Testament’ and ‘Dragonlord’ together or would this be too much for you?
(E) (Laughing) “Shit that would be too much !! I would like to tour for this project but we’ll have to wait and see. I would like to tour with ‘Artch Enemy’ or ‘Soilwork’.”
Chuck, what was it like to play the ‘Thrash Of The Titans’ in the Bay Area? Also didn’t you think of doing this festival in Europe and the UK?
(C) “It was great to see all those old faces and jam together for the first time in years. It was fun for the old ‘Testament’ members and we made a few fuck ups - ha!! As for us doing the festival over there, well we had a few people who called us, mainly the people who did the ‘Donnington’ festival but it was tuff for all those bands to get over there. The whole shows was videos and it may come out as a DVD in the very near future.”
OK guys, I want to thank you for your time. Good luck with the new album and especially to you Chuck, get well soon and keep on Thrashing!!
(E) “Well thanx for the interview, good luck with your Zine, I hope you are around for another 10 yrs. Thanx to our fans for their dying support.”
(C) “Yeah, thanx to our fans for their support and best of luck with the zine. Thanx for the kid words.”